Wessex League Attendances 2016/17 Part 4: The Biggest Games

23 Jun

In the previous parts of this series I’ve looked at the averages, but now it’s the turn of individual games. Across the whole of the Wessex League the attendance ranged from a high of 488 (Sholing v Bournemouth) to a low of 6 (Folland Sports v Laverstock & Ford)

For each division I’ve compiled a list of the ten fixtures which drew the biggest crowds. In the Premier Division Sholing scooped the two slots thanks to their fixtures against Bournemouth and Brockenhurst, which were both billed as free entry community days.

Largest attendances Prem div

Granting a one-off free entry to a game to pull in the punters has been a strategy which has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, particularly among non-league clubs. And it does work – as Sholing have demonstrated, generating 450+ crowds on both occasions and being the only Wessex League club to break the 400 barrier. (Incidentally I wrote a short piece on free entry games for WSC a couple of years back)

Largest attendances div 1

Also guaranteed to get the crowds flocking is the prospect of a derby. For me, the beauty of the Wessex League is the sheer abundance of local derbies. As for the biggest… that award goes to the Isle of Wight derby between Cowes Sports and Newport Isle of Wight which drew 359 fans to Cowes’s Westwood Park Ground and some 267 to Newport IoW’s St George’s Park. Another derby which set pulses racing was the New Forest Derby, between Bashley and Brockenhurst which achieved a crowd of 268 – the fourth highest crowd at any game in the Wessex League (the return fixture, though not in the top 10 was nevertheless Brockenhurst’s highest gate of the season attracting 181 fans to Grigg Lane. Similarly in the top 10 list of biggest Division One gates derby games also feature. Top of the list is the North Hampshire derby between Alton and Andover New Street which saw 154 people pass through the turnstile, followed by the Salisbury area derby between Laverstock & Ford and Downton which was watched by 138 spectators.

Prem div 200 plus

The clubs which featured most though were the ones with consistently high attendances, in the Premier Division Portland made the top 10 three times with games against Bemerton Heath Harlequins (243), Team Solent (231) and Bashley (222) none of which could really be considered a local derby whilst in Division One Alton v Totton & Eling (136) was the third highest gate and again a game which could not be considered a derby. That said however, nothing quite matches a Wessex League derby day so next season it’s well worth booking a ferry ticket for the Island derby, or taking a day in the New Forest for one of the New Forest derbies.

Wessex League Attendances 2016/17 Part 3: Wessex League Division One

21 Jun

Back in 2015-16 Portland stormed to the top of the average attendance league with an average crowd of 134 as they also took the Division One title on the pitch, earning them promotion to the Wessex Premier.

For 2016-17 no clubs managed to reach the dizzying three figure heights of Portland’s 2015-16 average and the average attendance crown goes to Alton FC who posted an average attendance of 86 – one lower than their figure for the 2015-16 season in which they had finished as attendance league runners-up to Portland. By way of comparison Alton’s 86 would put them in 9th spot in the Wessex Premier, between Fareham Town (87) and Hamworthy (78)

Wessex1 Attendances

Following closely behind Alton are Totton & Eling who recorded an average of 80. This represented quite a large increase from their 2015-16 average of 62 and was, along with Laverstock & Ford, the largest average attendance increase seen within Division One – though this is excluding Hamble Club and Baffins Milton Rovers who were both in the Hampshire League in 2015-16.

One key difference between the averages for Division One and the Premier league is the size of the gap between the leaders and the chasing pack. In the Premier the difference between top club, Portland, and fourth placed Andover Town was 63 spectators per game, whilst in Division One the difference between Alton and fourth placed Romsey Town was only 19 spectators per game. As well as the average I also calculated the standard deviation (a measure that is used to quantify the amount of variation, or dispersion of a set of data) for both divisions and the standard deviation for the Premier is 40, whilst it is 19 for Division One, suggesting that on the whole there is much more variance in average attendances across the Premier Division.

At the very he rear of the attendance table are United Services Portsmouth who managed to draw an average crowd of just 21. Like Team Solent in the Premier Division US Portsmouth are a club who receive backing from an institution – in their case the forces – and therefore don’t have a developed support base. One other point is that it’s not the most straightforward ground to get into as Hopping Around Hampshire found in 2013:

You need to walk all the way to the far side of the naval playing fields to the entrance of HMS Temeraire, where the sentries at the barrier will let you in if you say you’re going to the match. From here, walk to the left, through the car park, up a short flight of steps, around the large building on your right, down another flight of steps and through an open gate to the athletics/football stadium.

Tied with US Portsmouth in bottom place, also on 21, are Fleet Spurs, a club which occupies a space on the geographical fringes of the league and who in 2017-18 will be competing in the Combined Counties League.

The bottom three is completed by Folland Sports who attracted an average of 23 spectators per game. Having a works team background Folland’s have never had the best attendances, but in 2016-17 the club suffered several blows when it came to enticing the crowds through their turnstile. Relegated at the end of the 2015-16 season and usurped by up-and-coming neighbours – and eventual Division One Champions – Hamble Club Folland’s average attendance shrunk from 51 in 2015-16, the biggest decline among the Division One clubs.

Wessex 1 Changes

Hamble Club were just one of four clubs promoted into the Wessex League for 2016-17. Joining them from the Hampshire Premier League was Baffins Milton Rovers whilst Weymouth Reserves and Shaftesbury came from the Dorset Premier League. Of these clubs all made the Division One average attendance top ten with Shaftesbury reaching the highest position, finishing in fifth place with an average attendance of 64 and Hamble Club the lowest of the group in 9th spot with an average of 50. All except Weymouth Reserves achieved promotion to the Wessex Premier in their first season.

Wessex League Attendances 2016/17 Part 2: Wessex League Premier Division

16 Jun

Salisbury’s departure for the pastures of the Southern League means a new champion at the head of the Wessex League average attendance table…. step forward Portland.

avg att WSX Prem

Like Salisbury Portland completed a double of not just securing the highest average attendance, at 169, but also the league title and also in their first Wessex Premier season. There however, the similarities end for rather than being a fallen giant who has hit rock bottom, Portland entered the Premier Division from below, through Division One which they in turn only first entered in 2015 previously stepping-up from the Dorset Premier League. Impressively too Portland are in geographic terms rather out on a limb which may limit the number of away fans wanting to make the journey.

In a close second place were Bashley who averaged 165. The Bash have an illustrious Wessex League history – winning the inaugural title back in the 1986-87 season and the village team spent a number of years mixing it with the big boys in the Southern Premier League only to have recently fallen on tough times. The result of all those years at a higher level however, means the club has a good support base – of the kind who go to games wearing scarves, hats and badges. Bashley is also at the heart of the Wessex Premier New Forest/Waterside nexus which meant well attended derby fixtures against the likes of Brockenhurst (268), Lymington Town (240) and Blackfield & Langley (233)

Third placed Sholing, with an average attendance of 130, offered an interesting case as the club have this season experimented with free entry and community days as a method of engagement. Entry was free for games against Brockenhurst – where before the game teams from across the club posed for a combined photo – and the game against Bournemouth, which was combined with a community fun day. In terms of getting the crowds in both events were a success with the Brock game pulling in 464 and the Bournemouth game 488 –the two biggest crowds across the whole league. These two games have boosted Sholing’s average significantly (A rough calculation shows that disregarding these games Sholing’s average would have been 94, putting them in sixth place, between Cowes Sports and AFC Portchester) and it will therefore be interesting to see if Sholing, or other clubs do something similar next season.

At the other end of the attendance table are Team Solent who averaged just 24 spectators over the whole season. The ‘Sparks’ as they are known suffer from something I call works team syndrome. Although not a factory team Solent are broadly a similar case in that they enjoy the support of a large institution as a benefactor – in this case the University – for whom they are named after. It is often the case that the price of this is the lack of interest from the local community who may not feel the club represents them, whilst for their part ‘works’ teams do not need to maximise their spectator numbers so often community links go undeveloped. In Solent’s case this is a little bit of a shame as they are a good footballing side who on the three occasions I saw them last season played an exciting attacking style of football – perhaps the neutrals and groundhoppers best kept secret.

Promoted to the Wessex Premier as last seasons Division One runners-up Amesbury Town struggled on the pitch this season, finishing one spot above the relegation places in 19th. This may be a factor behind their low attendances which saw an average crowd of 29 at their ground – down from 50 in the 2015-16 season. Another factor could be the fact that promotion to the Premier meant the loss of two derby games against nearby Downton and Laverstock & Ford which attracted 74 and 72 spectators respectively in 2015-16. Finally, third from bottom are Bournemouth FC with 31. Like Amesbury Bournemouth had a tough Wessex Premier Season finishing in 17th place.

One interesting point to note is that Moneyfields, this season’s runners up who were also promoted to the Southern League, failed to entice many spectators to their Copnor ground with an average of just 55.Whether the club attract more playing at a higher level remains to be seen.

Change from 2015-16 by club

As we saw previously the average for the Wessex Premier as a whole dropped fairly significantly between 2015-16 and 2016-17, from 107 to 76.

This was mainly as a result of Salisbury’s promotion. Looking at a club-by-club basis it is clear to see that the biggest losers this season had either a close proximity to Salisbury, or else were clubs with low crowds and therefore with an average which was more sensitive to a sudden influx for one game. In 2015-16 Team Solent for instance saw a crowd of 387 for their game against Salisbury, whilst this season their biggest was 45 for the visit of Alresford Town. The loss of Salisbury was also keenly felt by near-neighbours Bemerton Heath Harlequins who saw 620 spectators squeeze past their turnstyles for the derby-day visit of Salisbury in 2015-16. The promotion of Amesbury Town meant that though Bemerton would have a game which they could regard as a local derby which drew a season-best crowd it could not realistically fill the Salisbury sized gap and attracted only 102 spectators.

Change in avg wsx lg

Only seven clubs in the Wessex Premier improved their average attendance. Heading this group was Portland United. Having been in Division One last season granted immunity from the Salisbury effect and it seems that playing at a higher level has brought an average of an additional 35 fans to each game.

Sholing boosted their average by 20 from 2015-16, chiefly as a result of the very high attendances from the free entry games against Brockenhurst (464) and Bournemouth (488) which more than made up for the loss of the 407 fans who had visited their ground to watch Salisbury the previous season. The third biggest gainer was Fareham Town who boosted their average by 14. Again Salisbury may have had an impact as in 2015-16 Salisbury recorded one of their lowest on-the-road crowds at Fareham with only 156 spectators turning up.

I was unable to obtain the figures for Bashley’s average attendance for last season in the Southern League South & West, though I did manage to find a figure of 109 which was for only part of the 2015-16 season. If this is the case then their figure of 165 for 2016-17 represents a huge improvement.

On the road

On the road WSX lg

Finally I decided to take a look at how teams compared when it came to the crowds they attracted whilst on-the-road. As you can see, compared to the home attendances there is much more similarity which suggests that significant travelling support is a little bit of a rarity in the Wessex League. Brockenhurst top the table having attracted an average of 103 fans to their away fixtures, largely helped by that free game against Sholing. The free game at Sholing also sees Bournemouth near the top with 83. In second though are Bashley who saw 91 people on average turning out to watch them take on the home side. I crossed paths with them myself at Brockenhurst and can confirm that Bashley do indeed have a reasonable away following. In third are Sholing with 87 – and I believe from what I’ve seen that Sholing do make an effort to encourage their support and offered coach travel to Portland in 2016-17

Wessex League Attendances 2016/17 Part One – The Overall Picture

15 Jun

Long-time readers will know that if there’s two things Row Z can get enthusiastic over its attendance stats and the Wessex League, so I’d like to thank the Wessex League for providing me with the attendance stats for the 2016/17 season which has allowed me to indulge these two interests.

My interest though is not based on any claim to geekdom, but is more about how important I feel attendance stats are for revealing certain things about the game and clubs, or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Since getting the figures I’ve been looking them over and creating all manner of graphs to try to see if I can pull out any interesting tidbits. There are, it can be said, a few and it’s been a bit of a headache to think about how best to present it all without it all becoming a mish-mash, or even a 5,000 word borefest so I’ve opted to release it in parts. Here goes part one….

The overall picture

Wessex Overall Avg

Overall in 2016/17 the average attendance at Wessex League Premier Division games was 76 and for Division One clubs the figure was 48.

For Division One this represented no real change from 2015/16 where the average had been 49. The same cannot be said of the Premier Division which enjoyed an average attendance of 107 in 2015/16.

The reason for this reduction in the Premier of over a quarter can be put down to one main factor, which I’ll call The Salisbury Effect. In 2015/16 the Wessex League was joined by Salisbury, a new club which replaced the dissolved Salisbury City. A whole book could be written about Salisbury’s recent football travails, but the essence of the story for attendances is that traditionally Salisbury are a bigger club who entered the Wessex Premier as the starting point of their journey back to full health – rehab if you like.

It was just a few years ago that Salisbury City graced the Conference National and the club retained a relatively big following. Helped by a celebrity manager in ex-pro Steve Claridge Salisbury attracted crowds which were in Wessex League terms extremely large, averaging 707 over the 2015/16 season (for comparison the second highest average for 2015/16 was Andover Town with 130.)

The club also boasted a relatively large travelling support so the impact was felt not just on the overall Premier Division average, but across the averages for many clubs who back in 2015/16 cranked the programme printing press into overdrive and ordered extra sausages, tea bags and white rolls in advance of Salisbury’s visit.

Having won the League at the first time of asking however,  Salisbury gained promotion to the Southern League for the 2016/17 season leaving turnstiles across the Wessex Premier that little bit quieter this season as things returned to an equilibrium.

 

Football in the year 2165

6 Jun

A couple of years ago I had a plan to compile a book about football in the future which included art, fiction and factual writing all together in one volume. Unfortunately it didn’t quite get off the ground. I came across this though in my old writing archive and thought I’d put it out there, if only to give all you readers a bit of a laugh…… My vision for what football could look like in the year 2165 – 148 years into the future

 

Jackson cursed his luck. What use was this talent now; this ability to not just kick a ball, but to master it, to make it do exactly what he wanted. A few years ago he could have been a millionaire, but now there was nothing. He knew what to blame…. analytics.

Analytics had quantified almost every aspect of the game. Not just crude measures like goals, assists, dribbles and chances created, but every miniscule movement both on and off the ball. A vast data-bank had been created of all these attributes. Unlike the past though this was not just used as a tactical aid, but ended up recreating the sport anew. Holographic technology could render lifelike avatars of the players, the pitch, even stadia, while advanced probability theory was used to predict how individual players would react to any given situation.

Football players suddenly found themselves in as much demand as factory workers when the robot assembly line was installed and shop assistants when they brought in automated checkouts. The salaries which had grown year after year collapsed virtually overnight. There would be no more stories of the bacchanalian excess which had both shocked and enthralled the public.

The ones now receiving the biggest money (though still modest by the footballer standards of the era just ended) were the programmers, mathematicians and analysts who operated firmly in the background. Many of these were now engaged on the next grand project; to methodically and painstakingly recreate the great players of the past.

Using enhanced archive footage and old data-sets they were bringing the greats back from the realms of history. The first had been Pele. The biggest challenge was the lack of archive footage, not to mention the poor quality of what did exist. This hindered the ability to take detailed measurements of his attributes and off-ball movement and those involved would admit, though never in public, to undertaking some educated guesswork. Still, the final result was visually stunning and when a prototype of holographic avatar had been unveiled at the newly re-built 200,000 capacity Maracana Stadium the assembled FIFA dignitaries – invited especially for the occasion – had reacted with shock “it’s like Pele has stepped out of a time machine” one was heard to utter as they watched with shock and delight as the recreated great, back from the dead, performed a litany of tricks for the crowd, before taking part in a virtual game where he lined up with a holographic re-creation of the current human Brazil side.

Of course there were some inconsistencies, but in the press conference after the game Chief software engineer Hal Barnes, a grey-haired bespectacled man in his late 40s with a fondness for teaming his lab-coat with a pair of battered trainers, told assembled reporters that with the lessons learned from the Pele experience and the greater amount of data on players from later eras, which includes medical data, data gathered on the training ground and psychological reports, future recreations will be even more realistic.

This was the beginning of the end for football as a sport played by humans, against other humans. For a while the human league persisted, but as Hal and his team created more legends; Cruff, Messi, Ronaldo, Le Tissier the appeal of the holographic virtual league grew stronger, not least when there came an option for spectators themselves to join in the action on the pitch by donning a special suit which replicated their movements via an avatar. Fitness and technique were not an issue as the avatars could compensate by boosting a players natural attributes. The worlds of video-gaming and football were finally fused together. There was not one football league, but thousands with hundreds of thousands of games being played simultaneously.

Jackson glumly unzipped the suit. Somehow scoring the winner in the World Cup final left him feeling deflated. It was nothing compared to scoring for real, like he had done in the park, on real grass, so many years ago.

From Kettering Tyres to Nexen Tyres: A brief history of shirt sponsorship

6 Jun

When a young kid dreams of becoming a top football player, or a famous manager it is unlikely that attending a ‘partnership signing ceremony’ set up to announce a new sleeve sponsor figures highly – or even at all – in their minds.

Yet in the modern game this is an unavoidable part of the role and so it was that Pep Guardiola, Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus and Jill Scott found themselves part of a carefully choreographed event at the City Football Academy along with City’s chief Executive Ferran Soriano and Nexen Tire CEO Travis Kang.

In making their announcement City became the first club to sign a deal since a relaxing of the rules allowed Premier League clubs to enter into sleeve sponsorship deals, to begin in the new season.

The sophistication of the event and the language of ‘partnership’, ‘relationship’ and ‘brand’ in the accompanying article on City’s official website demonstrate in themselves just how well accepted corporate sponsorship is in football.

All this is a far cry from just a few decades previously. It was in January 1976, far from the glamour of Manchester City and the Premier League, that Kettering Town, then of the Southern League, became the first British club to wear a sponsors name on their shirts when they faced Bath City with the name of local firm ‘Kettering Tyres’ on the front of their shirts.

The FA, whose rules barred such sponsorship deals, reacted by ordering Kettering to remove the companies name from their shirts. The club however, only partially complied, cheekily amending the lettering to ‘Kettering T’, arguing that the ‘T’ stood for town, but they eventually backed down under the threat of a £1,000 fine.

This was though not the end of the issue, particularly as clubs facing declining attendances and financial pressures sought new forms of income, and in 1977 the FA finally relaxed the rules around shirt sponsorship.

Unsurprisingly it was the big clubs who reaped the most benefit with league champions Liverpool signing a deal with Hitachi in 1979, reported to be worth £100,000 over two years whilst Arsenal’s 1981 deal with JVC saw them net £500,000 – both amounts far in excess of whatever Kettering earned from their deal. Ironically Kettering themselves were unable to even find a sponsor in the immediate aftermath of the rule change.

In the intervening years sponsorship deals grew to such an extent that the website sporting intelligence reported that for the 2016-17 season Premier league teams combined shirt sponsorship deals were worth some £226.5m,with Manchester United alone enjoying a club-record £47m-a-year deal with Chevrolet.

Importantly shirt sponsorship also won over the fans. The ‘JVC’ on Arsenals shirt would go on to be as iconic as it was lucrative. The same can also be said of other early sponsors such as Crown Paints and Liverpool, Sharp at Manchester United, or NEC at Everton. Shirt sponsors act as a  point of reference for a particular era, or a moment of glory. In 2012 The Football Attic blog ran a contest to find the shirt fans found most iconic of all and among the top were: Holsten (Tottenham) Guinness (Queens Park Rangers)Newcastle Brown Ale (Newcastle) Pioneer (Ipswich), Carlsberg (Wimbledon), Wang (Oxford), JVC (Arsenal) and Commodore (Chelsea).

It remains to be seen though whether English fans will ever be receptive to the kind of shirt sponsorship seen in the likes of French football where several sponsors logos are permitted on shirts, including the sleeve, shoulders, and back, or Finland where football kits can be a confusing mish-mash of multiple sponsors logos all competing for attention and threatening to swamp the clubs own symbols of identity. Perhaps the furthest such sponsorship has gone is in the case of Brazilian Serie D side Fluminense de Feria who received worldwide media attention following their deal with a supermarket chain. The agreement saw the names of household items such as shampoo and pizza featuring on the back of the player’s shirts in place of player names with the price then displayed using the players shirt number. This may have brought the club some welcome cash, but perhaps at the cost of a little dignity. Thankfully sleeve sponsorship may be a long way from this point, but could it be one step further in this direction?

Fordingbridge Turks v Vimoutiers – Bailey Cup: Sat 27th May 2017

30 May

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It may have been FA Cup final day, but for me and a few others at least the place to be was Fordingbridge for the Bailey Cup between Fordingbridge Turks and Vimoutiers FC, a side hailing from Normandy.

The game itself is an attempt at re-igniting the football relationship between the respective clubs in the two towns – twinned, thanks in part to the work of Dennis Bailey who, the programme informs, first proposed the idea of twinning to the Chamber of Trade back in 1977.

Presumably it was an early flourish of twinning enthusiasm which saw the two sides play each other in October 1980 when the Turks, visiting Normandy, lost 4-2 and a return fixture in May 1981 which resulted in a 7-0 for the Turks on home soil.

A pennant from this time still hangs in the Fordingbridge clubhouse however, the intervening years have seen both clubs experience difficult times and it seems the relationship between the two was allowed to slide.

According to the programme Vimoutiers have, in the past 10 years, experienced something of a turn-around in fortunes. Rebuilt and restructured the club has achieved the label of quality from the French Football Federation for its football school whilst the main side has reached the Normandy Football League.

In this there are parallels with the Turks. When I last came to town a few years back in 2013 the Turks were languishing toward the bottom of the Bournemouth Hayward Saturday League Division 3. In 2014 the Turks merged with a local junior club Fordingbridge Town FC. This has brought a new vitality into the club which can now boast a range of sides from mini-turks and U8’s right up to u18’s as well as a ladies team and U15 and U13 girls sides whilst the men’s first team are now in Division 1 of the Hayward Saturday League.

Off the field it is clear that the club are a better organised outfit and this is apparent in the Turks planning and hosting of the day. The social media was well done (it was why I was here and it also caught the attention of broadcaster Tony Incenzo), 100 good quality programmes had been printed specially for the occasion and arrangements had even been made for the game to be filmed.

It’s also worth pointing out that the club were also particularly welcoming to all visitors and Chris Garvey, the first team manager, ensured that everyone who wanted to see them got to take a look at both sides team sheets. Chris even went so far as to disappear up to the loft of the changing room block to retrieve the visitors team-sheet from the film crew so I could see it.

As his French counterpart initially handed over the team sheet Chris had quipped “no Zidanes I hope”, though looking at the visitors who emerged in their kit for the warm up Fordingbridge would have little to fear; The Vimoutiers touring side had a little of a make-shift appearance, with its numbers complimented by a number of very young looking players and a couple of more senior members – including their club president Sergio Reis de Pinho.

This didn’t though stop Vimoutiers from giving their all and they had in their number some reasonably good players like team captain and number 9 Jaouaol Mehdaoui who earned the visitors a free kick in a prime position early on when he got the better of his marker, drawing the foul.

Vimoutiers downfall though was always likely to be at the back where they looked distinctly shaky. Their number 3 at left back was a willowy young lad who looked vulnerable to the Turks forwards well versed in the rough and tumble of the Bournemouth Saturday league and their number 4 was off the pace, whilst their goalkeeper – possibly the shortest player on the pitch – looked more than a little out of place.

Surviving a couple of early scares, including one involving a delightfully sliced attempted clearance Vimoutiers bowed to the inevitable when the Turks number 14 Lascelles Richardson powered through a largely ineffective bundle of yellow shirts to slot past the ‘keeper who appeared reluctant to leave his line.

By this point it was clearly apparent that the Turks were outclassing their visitors. The home players were also demonstrating particular patience with the tackles which flew in from a result of frustration, incompetence, or in some cases possibly a little more. The Vimoutiers number 5 Illias Boublay certainly seemed to have some intent with some of the hard tackles he delivered and when beaten would sometimes appear to leave a trailing leg to catch his opponent. Had the refereeing not been of a generous nature his afternoon may well have been a little shorter, but on the other side of the coin Boublay was one of Vimounters better players, opening space up well with some driving forward runs on the ball.

If Fordingbridge’s second was a rather impressive effort, from Charlie Prince who spun and slotted the ball into the top right hand corner, then their third had a touch of comedy about it when a shot from distance went under the Vimoutiers ‘keeper. A fourth and a fifth in quick succession, effectively ending the game as a contest the final death knell of which came when just before the whistle the Vimoutiers number 9 was carried off with what seemed to be an injured ankle.

The second half saw Fordingbridge take their foot off the gas considerably and the hosts also charitably loaned the injury depleted Vimoutiers some players. This re-jigged side almost get one back early on as the Fordingbridge ‘keeper attempts to play with the ball at his feet only to lose it, but the goal-bound effort was blocked. At the other end the Vimoutiers goalkeeper managed to come out well and clear a dangerous ball, as well as making a save when Laschelles Richardson, scorer of the opening goal, is through once again.

Still Fordingbridge added to their tally by grabbing a sixth, and finally a seventh when a cross was headed in. Between these points Vimoutiers did manage to find the net, but it was one of the Fordingbridge loanees, Ben Moseley who got it. Moseley later credited the goal to his new ‘wheels’ saying that he’d scored in every game since getting a new pair of boots.

The plan is for Fordingbridge to travel to Vimoutiers in 2018 with both adult and youth teams. The first-team fixture is particularly likely to prove a tougher test and will make for quite an interesting spectacle. The bigger picture though is the building of a relationship which can benefit both clubs – the true spirit of twinning.

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